Rajdeep Sardesai, the son of late cricketer Dilip, made an interesting point in his ‘vote of thanks’ at yesterday’s Dilip Sardesai Memorial Lecture delivered by Ravi Shastri: “It must have been another world… and I don’t think that world, in some ways sadly, exists today,” said Rajdeep after telling the gathering how the great Vinoo Mankad offered Dilip a P J Hindu Gymkhana membership after merely watching him bat in an inter-collegiate match at the Kennedy Sea Face club.
At the heart of Mumbai cricket’s erstwhile invincibility and production line of cricketers was the fraternity’s passion. Shastri recalled batting for Karnatak Sporting Association against M B Union in a Purshottam Shield quarter-final at Cross Maidan: “I was pretty close to getting into the Bombay side and I was on my way to a double hundred. I saw him (Dilip) under a tree and that really got my juices flowing.”
When Sardesai told Shastri he watched his innings, the young gun said, “I knew!”
Shastri realised immediately that Sardesai would spread the word about his prowess. He did and Mumbai found their star. On the morning of March 14, two months shy of his 18th birthday, Shastri was walking out with the likes of Gavaskar, Vengsarkar and Ghavri in Bombay colours. Sardesai, who played a lead role in India winning the 1971 series in the West Indies, displayed the same emphasis while ridiculing poor quality cricket as he did when he pulled out his praise brush. Shastri remembers talking to him about an impressive spinner from New Zealand, but Sardesai found him a “popatwadi spinner.”
When the West Indies toured India in 1983-84, Sardesai was appointed manager for the Test series. On the third day of one of the Test matches, Sardesai expressed his displeasure over the low bravado level of “two-three” players in the team. Shastri said they were, “sh***ing even before they went out to field. I couldn’t help laughing because he was dead right.”
Trinidadian musician Lord Relator started his calypso on Sunil Gavaskar and the Indian team which beat the West Indies in 1971, by singing, “a lovely day for cricket...”
It was just that yesterday. And yes, from the 1971 team, there was skipper Ajit Wadekar, Salim Durani, K Jayantilal, Erapalli Prasanna — all listening in to what their departed teammate meant to cricket.